Dudley: High Expectations For Jackson, Wilder

Mississippi State head track coach Steve Dudley has high expectations for both freshman Marcus Jackson and junior O'Neal Wilder, expectations that go beyond this weekend's SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and even beyond their collegiate careers.

Both Jackson and Wilder have already accomplished a lot in their track careers at Mississippi State. Jackson won the high jump event at the prestigious Penn Relays while Wilder placed 2nd in the 4x4 and 3rd in the 400 meters in last year's SEC Track Championship. Dudley expects more.

"I'm not trying to down play what (Jackson) has done, and he already knows I feel this way, but there is no reason why he shouldn't be in the Olympics," said Dudley. "(And) if (Wilder) can get a full year of training, then he also has a chance to make the Olympics. He should at least be on a relay team. He has not had a full year of training during his entire life."

Dudley explained why he feels Jackson has the talent to make the Olympics. But he also pointed out it takes more than talent to get there.

"Go to our jump practice or go to a meet and see how far off the ground he gets," said Dudley. "(He has the talent) but when you get to a certain level talent doesn't mean anything because you have to put it all together (to get to that certain level). (But) talent is the first thing you want."

And Jackson has that type talent. As for Wilder, he's also got talent but health has been his biggest obstacle so far in his track career. He believes he is finally over the injury obstacle.

"I feel I am now completely healthy," said O'Neal Wilder, who has had a couple of surgeries during the past couple of years. "Obviously, I didn't get to train in the fall (due to the surgery). I just have to get in better shape by running in more races. Last year I didn't train in the fall and ran my fastest time ever at the SEC. That was with no fall training and coming back from knee surgery. And I also had a little bit of a groin injury during that time. I feel, if I actually have a full year of conditioning, I will probably be much better than what I have ever been."

While the Olympics may be in their future, right now their immediate future is this weekend's SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships and, hopefully, in a few weeks the NCAA Nationals. Both athletes hope to do well at both meets.

"Of course I want to win. Every time I line up I want to win. It's as simple as that," said Wilder "I have a winning mentality so I do what I have to do. I placed third in the SEC last year in the 400. I plan on being better than that this year. I got second in the 4x4. I plan on winning that this year. I am going to try to do what I have to do to be better than what I was last year."

As for Jackson, he is low key about any meet whether it be a regular season home meet or a national event like the Penn Relays or the NCAA Track Championship. But being low key doesn't hide the fact that he wants to win.

"I want to win but when I go out there I want to do better than I did in the last meet," said Marcus Jackson, who jumped 7' 1" to win the Penn Relays High Jump event.. "(And) I know I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it."

That confidence in himself is said in a very low key, matter of fact manner with not a hint of cockiness. Even during meets he exhibits that low key manner.

"When I'm out there, I don't pay attention to the crowd, I don't get nervous," said Jackson. "After I jump, I get up and go down to get ready for my next jump. If I miss my jump I look at my coaches and they tell me what I did (wrong) and I change it until I clear (the bar). Then I go down to my next jump."

Dudley sees that low key manner as not only a positive but also as a possible negative.

"If he can block out the pressure that helps, but he also has to learn how to let it jazz him up a little bit. You have to have that ability to jazz it up," said Dudley.

If he can add that to his personality, then he may be able to reach a special goal of his before he leaves college.

"My goal is to get to 7' 6" (in the high jump), which is the college record," said Jackson.

The SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which is at Athens, Georgia, begin Thursday and go through Sunday.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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